Standing in the chest-deep water of Tarpon Bay, Florida recently, Eric Milbrandt handed a cage full of bay scallops to Sarah Bridenbaugh aboard a Carolina Skiff.
Milbrandt, director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory, and research assistant Bridenbaugh weren’t harvesting the tasty mollusks (harvesting bay scallops south of the Pasco-Hernando county line is illegal).
Instead, the caged scallops would be cleaned, counted and measured by Bridenbaugh and interns Krystal Silas, Emily Anderson and Chrissy McCrimmon for an ongoing scallop restoration project.
“Old-timers talk about collecting buckets of scallops in the 1950s and ‘60s,” Milbrant said. “What we’re trying to do is re-establish a local population of scallops. We’d like to see a population that can sustain a recreational harvest, but we’re quite a long way from that.”
Several organizations are working to help scallops recover in Southwest Florida, including Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Bay Watch, and the Charlotte County Extension Service.